If you’re new to tubeless bicycle tires, you may not be aware that they need periodic maintenance. Although a tire may continue to hold air indefinitely, flat protection can diminish after just a few months as the sealant drys up. In addition to adding fresh sealant, it’s best to remove the old sealant for best performance. The old sealant can pool and stick to a specific location in the tire, or form into strange rubber crystals. If not removed, the dried sealant adds excess rotating mass to the tire, and can throw the wheel out of balance.
Luckily for you, I was very negligent in my tire maintenance, and didn’t check my tires for a full 18 months. This created a perfect example of what happens inside your tire over time. I’m running tubeless-ready rims, and these particular tires fit pretty snug. Air retention has been as good or better than some inner tubes. But as you can see from these photos, there was no way the sealant was going to seal up a hole in the tire. In this example, I was using the tire sealant by Stan’s NoTubes.
I’ve seen small crystals form from Stan’s NoTubes sealant, but what came out of my tires this time was surprising. Each tire contained a very large rubbery crystal that would look perfectly at home on a science fiction movie. I took these mutated beauties into the house to show my son and his friend, but they recoiled in disgust as I presented my find.
Also in tire was just a small amount of discolored goo that was easily wiped out with an old rag. I was actually lucky in this case, because sometimes the sealant dries all over the inside of the tire. This can take a lot of work peeling it out, or some vigorous scrubbing with a cleaning brush. Now that my tires have been cleaned out, I’m ready to add some fresh sealant. I’ll be trying a different brand of sealant this time around called Blue Seal, so look for an upcoming post on the installation. It’ll also be interesting to see how the maintenance compares.
Tubeless tires are great performance upgrade for mountain biking, but as you can see, there can be a definite hassle involved when compared to a standard inner-tube. Keep this in mind if you are thinking of going tubeless. While I really like the technology, I only run tubeless on my most frequently used mountain bike, and just run standard tubes in my other bikes.
Do you have any tubeless tire maintenance tips or funny stories? Let us know in the comments!
More on tubeless tires here on Bike Carson.